Since ancient times, most communities of faith have taught selfless love in the form of “the Golden Rule“:
“That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.” Egypt, Late Period (1080-332 BCE)
“This is the sum of duty: do naught unto others that you would not have them do unto you.” Hinduism, writings from 1000-800 BCE
“That nature alone is good which refrains from doing to another whatsoever is not good for itself.” Zoroastrianism (628-551 BCE)
“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Buddhism, c. 500 BCE
“Do not do to others what would anger you if done to you by others.” Isocrates (436-338 BCE)
“May I . . . do to others as I would that they should do to me.” Plato, Laws, Book 11
“That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is explanation.” Rabbi Hillel, an elder contemporary of Jesus
“What you dislike for yourself do not like for me.” Spanish proverb
And of course: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus, Matthew 7:1 (Jesus raised the bar a good bit when he said, “[L]ove your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you” [Luke 6:27-28].)
The same thought is also found in Shintoism, in a Nigerian Yoruba proverb, in Native American spirituality, and in many other religions that formed after the time of Jesus, including Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.”
All of these teachings seem to refer to action, not emotion. They stress doing, not feeling. Maybe ancient sages understood that it is, after all, the doing that’s most important.
But what does love look like from the receiving side? How do you know if someone loves you? Here are some questions to ask if you’re wondering is it love?
- Does it expand your spirit or shrink it? Love doesn’t shrink you. It doesn’t make you less yourself but more yourself.
- Does it endanger you physically or emotionally? Love does not endanger or abuse you. “You don’t want to spend your time around people who make you hold your breath,” says writer Anne Lamott. “You can’t fill up when you’re holding your breath.”
- Does it accept you as you are? Love doesn’t try to persuade you to be what the “lover” wants.
- Does it free you? Love sets you free – free to be you, free to succeed and free to fail, free to make choices, free to live your life and believe your beliefs.
- Does it make you a better person? Love fills instead of emptying. In fact, it fills to overflowing so that the one who receives love can then give love.
- Does it lead to life? If it deprives you of hope, joy, and peace, it’s not love. Love is a healer, a lifeline.
- Does it encourage you? If it discourages or belittles you, it’s not love.
If someone loves us, they will respect and trust us. They will treat us with kindness, dignity, honor, consideration, generosity, grace, and mercy – at least most of the time. The converse is true as well: If we love someone, we will respect and trust them. We will treat them with kindness, dignity, honor, consideration, generosity, grace, and mercy – at least most of the time. None of us is perfect. We all have our crabby days. Sometimes we’re inconsiderate toward the people we love. Sometimes we discourage them. Sometimes they’re inconsiderate and discourage us. But real love returns to respect, honor, and kindness as the norm of the relationship. The modus operandi. The foundation.
Next week: John Steinbeck’s beautiful explanation of love, plus a look at our one main purpose in life. Meanwhile, have a love-ly week!
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Text and photos © 2017 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved.